Review: The Boys (Amazon)

The Boys is an anti-superhero action series based very loosely on a very violent comic by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. Set in an America in which superheroes are real, it follows a group of ex-CIA operatives who act as a kind of black-ops/terrorist cell with the objective of taking down the highest profile superhero team known as ‘The Seven’.

The premise of flawed, morally suspect superheroes whose powers and role in law enforcement makes them metaphors for the authoritarian whims of American nationalism and capitalism has a very 1980s-90s British comics feel. It is weird to find The Boys oddly nostalgic in this way, harking back to Pat Mills, Grant Morrison and (obviously) Alan Moore’s own examinations of the reality of how such power would be used.

In the TV series, the Vought Corporation has a near monopoly on superheroes. A few decades earlier, babies born in the USA began to exhibit super powers and the Vought Corporation managed such talented people into crime-fighting media celebrities, with their own movies and merchandising but with real powers.

Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid) is a young man whose girlfriend is brutally killed accidentally by the superhero A-Train — a Flash like superhero whose superspeed essentially explodes Campbell’s girlfriend in front of him. This early scene sets the confused tone of the series: gory, comical and shocking, with events often set up like jokes but then played out for emotional impact.

A distraught Hughie is recruited by Billy Butcher — Karl Urban sporting the accent he used as Skurge in Thor: Ragnarok. Butcher is a foul-mouthed cockney rogue CIA agent on his own personal mission of revenge against the seven.

Meanwhile, Annie January (Erin Moriarty) is an aspiring superhero named ‘Starlight’ who has just been recruited by Vought as a new member of The Seven. Annie/Starlight rapidly discovers that at least some member of The Seven are deeply flawed people when she is sexually assaulted by The Deep — an Aquaman like superhero and long term member of The Seven.

A chance meeting brings Hughie and Annie together in the park with neither of them knowing that the path of their lives are heading towards a deadly conflict.

The show is weakest with its confused tone and the dark comedy aspect often fails or is pointlessly gratuitous (The Deep’s story arc in particular). However, the initially shallow characters pick up some depth as the story proceeds. Homelander (the superman analog in The Seven) is disturbingly creepy, violent and self-confidently insecure. Karl Urban, as always, vanishes into his role as the unlikely Butcher.

The plot holes are huge. Some of them are changes from the comic book to help drive some revelations discovered while The Boys (Butcher’s cell) unravel some of the mysteries of Vought and The Seven. The underlying big-evil-plot of Vought and Homelander makes very little sense on further inspection, even if their ultimate objective (money and power) makes plenty of sense.

Where the show works better is that Hughie manages to be quite likeable as a protagonist despite him essentially following the path of a radicalised young man choosing to become a terrorist (all be it a terrorist with at least some quasi-approval from the CIA). Likewise his growing relationship with Annie is one based on lies and inevitable manipulation once he realises she is part of the very group he is trying to destroy. Yet, the connection between the two of them (which itself relies on a lot of plot contrivance & some shitty security on Vought corp’s part) works well between the two actors. The parallels between Hughie’s radicalisation and Annie’s disenchantment begins to pull the show into more interesting questions of heroism.

This is season1 of at least two seasons so the final episode ends on a twist and the story is unresolved. Entertaining if you don’t mind cynical gory violence. Not as thoughtful as it wants to be.

The 1990s were peak dinosaur

I have been playing with the Google n-gram viewer to look at when dinosaurs were appearing most often in books.

It looks like the late 1990s, in the wake of Jurassic Park was the top time to encounter dinosaurs in print.

But which dinosaurs? Here’s a selection:


The volume for brontosaurus surprises me and makes me wonder if that peak is Jurassic Park related.

I had to leave iguanodon off the search terms because the way the n-gram tabulates figures, the Fonz of the dinosaurs just dominates the 19th century:


These days the venerable iguanodon is level with the feathery newcomer velociraptor.

Hugosauriad 4.8: Uncanny Magazine and The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters… by Brooke Bolander

The history of the Hugo Awards is intimately connected to the history of science-fiction and fantasy magazines. For decades Best Novel winners were often first published as serialised stories in the most notable magazines. By 2019 the age of the news stand sci-fi magazine was long over, although some venerable magazines were still in publication (e.g. Analog) and Amazing Stories had returned via the power of Kickstarter.

The magazine was from dead though. The business models had changed and the mode of distribution was radically different but the Hugo Awards at the end of the second decade of the twenty-first century were still influenced by magazines. Uncanny is a ‘semiprozine’ a science-fiction magazine that pays writers but also has some of the volunteer qualities of a fanzine. Starting life at the end of 2014 just before the height of the Sad Puppy debarkle, Uncanny quickly gained a strong reputation for the quality of its stories. It won it’s first Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine in 2016 and then won each year up to and including 2019. Founders and editors of Uncanny, Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas have also been finalists in the Best Editor Short Form category in 2017, 18 & 19 and won the category in 2018. A total of six short stories published by Uncanny have been Hugo Finalists since 2017. It is an impressive CV.

Part of its popularity lies with how it uses a mixes of models as a business:

How You Can Read Uncanny:
” Uncanny issues are published as eBooks (mobi, pdf, epub) bimonthly on the first Tuesday of each month through all of the major online eBook stores. Every issue contains 5-6 new short stories, 1 reprinted stories, 3 poems, 4 nonfiction essays, and 2 interviews, at minimum.
Subscribers and those purchasing single issues get each issue in its entirety up front.
You can subscribe to Uncanny Magazine through Weightless Books. You can also subscribe through Amazon in order to get Uncanny Magazine sent directly to your Kindle. Subscriptions not only get you all of the content on the day of the release, they will also make it possible for Uncanny to continue past our Year Two Kickstarter.
Those reading online for free will be able to read the first half of the issue online when the eBook is released, but will have to wait a month for the second half to appear on the first Tuesday of the next month at
We also produce a monthly podcast featuring a story, a poem, and an interview that is likewise released on the first Tuesday of each month.

Uncanny Magazine, About

Providing stories online for free makes it much easier for people to share stories that they enjoyed which in turn helps any award buzz a story might get. Subscriber and advertising revenue is supplemented by crowdfunding for special issues. One such issues was the 2018 ‘Shared universes dinosaur’ issue ( ). The contents page alone shows the extent to which Uncanny influences and is influenced by the Hugo Awards with contributors who have been finalists or winners of artist, fan-writing, editing, short fiction and novel categories.

Editor Lynne Thomas has past form with the Hugo Awards and dinosaur having been the editor for Rachel Swirsky’s “If You Were a Dinosaur My Love” in 2013 at Apex magazine. A whole issue devoted to dinosaur stories arose out of a Twitter discussion in 2017 and evolved into a series of very slightly connected stories. The frame is a corporation experimenting with recreating dinosaurs and also with time-travel and perhaps inter dimensional portals.

“On the largest island sits a shimmering crater filled with mysterious energies, where dinosaurs sometimes wander and often end up elsewhere… or elsewhen. The portal, accidentally created by The Owen Corporation for unknown reasons, is a gateway to other worlds, times, and dimensions, and it is growing. Soon, the experimental dinosaurs may very well overwhelm the entire multiverse.”

The Uncanny Dinosaurs—Introduction by Brooke Bolander, Sam J. Miller, Mari Ness, Nicasio Andres Reed, A. Merc Rustad & Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, K.M. Szpara, JY Yang, and Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, ed. Thomas, Lynne M. . Uncanny Magazine Issue 23: July/August 2018 . Uncanny Magazine. Kindle Edition.

The ten stories that follow place dinosaurs in different times and settings and genres. Only five of the stories directly connect with the “Owen Corporation” framing device, with K.M.Szpara’s “You Can Make a Dinosaur but You Can’t Help Me” looking closest. It follows the transgender son of the titular Owen of the Owen Corporation as he attempts to reconnect with his distance and unaccepting father on his Jurassic Park-like island. Red Lizard Brigade by Sam J. Miller imagines an attempted defection from a Soviet military unit that has gained access to dinosaurs via a portal that the Own Corporation wants. Bones in the Rock imagines a dinosaur who has been serially re-incarnated after a faustian pact at the end of the cretaceous, who is now a paleontologist searching for the bones of her dead lover. By Claw, By Hand by Silent Speech by Elsa Sjunneson-Henry and A. Merc Rustad is a story of deaf scientist attempting to teach sign language to a deadly raptor on the Owen Corportation’s island. Give the People What They Want by Alex Bledsoe uses the time travel premise to suggest a reason why people might attempt to make illicit videos of dinosaurs…

The other five stories place dinosaurs in more unusual settings. Mari Ness’s poem ‘Expecting a Dinosaur’ examines how social media would react to a sudden appearance of dinosaurs. Everything Under Heaven is a fantasy story with an East Asian setting where dinosaurs and flying reptiles have become an unwelcome intrusion of ‘dragons’. The Emigrants’ Guide to Oregon, California, and the Unknown by Brit E. B. Hvide, follows the doomed Donner Party on its 1840s trek westward but with the added addition of a ‘strange bird’ with a taste for meat. Mary Robinette Kowal’s ‘Nails in My Feet’ is a very short account of a puppet dinosaur abandoned in a cupboard, that I can’t help feel like a coda to Bradbury’s Prehistoric Producer.

The story I haven’t mentioned yet is Brooke Bolander’s The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat. It does, as the old advert on British TV used to say, what it says on the tin. Three raptor sisters and a prince who was indeed made out of meat (as they normally are). The story starts in a very familiar and yet unusual way:

“Once upon a time, long, long, long, long, long, long, ago, there were three raptor sisters, hatched beneath a lucky star. They lived in a wood together, they stole sheep and cattle together, and all in all, there was no tighter-knit hunting pride of matriarchal dromaeosauridae between the mountains and the sea.”

The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat by Brooke Bolander, ed. Thomas, Lynne M. . Uncanny Magazine Issue 23: July/August 2018 . Uncanny Magazine. Kindle Edition.

We’ve ,met as long ago as the 1950s, intelligent dinosaurs with functioning societies. More recently, Sawyer’s Far-seer had dinosaurs as protagonists within a dinosaur society. Bolander’s story pitches into a story where dinosaurs have a folklore and can partake in fairy-tales.

A foolish prince wanders into territory that is the hunting ground of three raptors. The raptors are surprised and decide that he must be part of some human plot. One of them (called Ceecee) decides to trick the prince into taking her back to his castle, so that she can ascertain what the humans are put to. Unfortunately for Ceecee, she had not planned on the obliviousness of the prince and she finds herself stuck in the castle. In the same castle she encounters the princess betrothed to the prince. The princess is both wise and a witch but is unable to win Ceecee’s trust. Inevitably matters come to a head and the prince using drugged meat manages to shackle Ceecee making her escape even more impossible.

“Ceecee was not asleep. She lay curled in a feathery heap in the floor of her stall. Already there were welts and bare spots among her snout plumage where the iron muzzle had rubbed. “I’m sorry,” said the Princess. “I didn’t know he was going to do this. I didn’t see it coming.” Rrr, said Ceecee. “He didn’t outwit me,” the Princess snapped, “he accidentally figured out how to stitch two thoughts together to make a third. But all that is beside the point. Listen.” Ceecee didn’t have much of a choice in the matter. “In my room, there is a scrying vessel, and in that scrying vessel I have seen your sisters, slipping towards the castle along the old road. They are coming to save you. If they kill the guards at the gate, more will come, with pikes and arrows and swords, and both of them will die.” All Ceecee could manage in response to this news was a low moan of misery. Her claws were dulled and her jaws held fast. Even if she escaped, how could she possibly help them? Perhaps sensing her thoughts—for again, this good mammal had many talents—the Princess raised a hand. “You cannot help them,” she said. “They cannot storm the castle by force. What they need now is stealth. They need trickery, and they need an ally to help them.” And here she smiled, with her flat, dull teeth. No beautiful curved sickle of bone, that smile, but it held its own kind of danger. “You cannot help them,” she repeated, “but I can.”

The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat by Brooke Bolander, ed. Thomas, Lynne M. . Uncanny Magazine Issue 23: July/August 2018 . Uncanny Magazine. Kindle Edition.

Ever since Bob Peck said “clever girl” just before being eaten by a pack of velociraptors in Jurassic Park, the dromaeosaur has been the dinosaur most associated with cunning and intelligence. In Bolander’s story Ceecee picks up the role of the folk tale protagonist who lives by her wits and whose natural intelligence and curiosity gets her both into and out of trouble. It is a surprisingly good fit that puts the raptor into a class of animal characters along with foxes and cats. Smaller predators whose cleverness can backfire against them.

Bolander’s raptors are modern dinosaurs not just in terms of their wits or their capacity to shift beyond the normal dino-narrative but also because they are beautifully feathered.

“The court was more than a little disconcerted when the Prince came back missing his prize stallion. The fact that he rode a rainbow-feathered creature with cunning eyes, a snout full of sharp white teeth, and lethal claws on each bipedal foot, was also the source of much talk, but the loss of the thoroughbred was a blow to all and sundry, for he had been a stud of some renown.

The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat by Brooke Bolander, ed. Thomas, Lynne M. . Uncanny Magazine Issue 23: July/August 2018 . Uncanny Magazine. Kindle Edition.

Of course I’m highlighting this story from the issue in particular because it was also a Hugo Award finalist in 2019 for best short story. Of the other stories in the issue, K.M.Szpara’s “You Can Make a Dinosaur but You Can’t Help Me” received enough nominations to appear on the long list but enough to be a finalist.

So where are dinosaurs at the end of 2019? The dinosaur as slow or redundant or past its time is not something we see but in this project we haven’t seen much of that view of dinosaurs. The idea of dinosaurs as intelligent is surprisingly old but a genuine change dating from Jurassic park forward is of some dinosaurs being cunning and wily. The association of dinosaurs with sex is a surprising development but not one confined only to porn parodies.

“On the screen, she watched the velociraptor mating orgy in the clearing ahead. Tails whipped through the air as partners changed, and high-pitched, bird-like cries rang out. It was a seething mass of feathers, claws, and teeth, with an occasional glimpse of the massive toe talons used both for killing, and for digging into the hides of mates. To Holden it was one of the least erotic things imaginable, but since the Breach of ’69, a small community of men—it was always men—had sprung up who found it unbelievably exciting, and were willing to pay for the privilege of jerking off to it. That image always left her a bit nauseous.”

Give The People What They Want by Alex Bledsoe, ed. Thomas, Lynne M. . Uncanny Magazine Issue 23: July/August 2018 . Uncanny Magazine. Kindle Edition.

The shift in popular understanding that dinosaurs, in particular theropods, were probably bird like is also a change in how dinosaurs are represented. The idea provides a richer range of templates of both behaviour and symbolism to draw upon.

Next time: Time to wrap up and call it a day.

Science fiction is dead…Long live Science Fiction!

I’m still trawling the intertubes for reactions to the name change of the John W Campbell Award to the Astounding Award. To add to the list of whiners here is the opinion of the failed fantasy writer, failed science fiction editor and failed science fiction publisher Vox Day:

“It is debatable when science fiction officially died. Historians may date it to John Scalzi’s ill-fated Tor contract, to NK Jemisin’s unprecedented and unbelievably absurd three Best Novel awards in a row, or to the disappearing of one of the genre’s leading figures. But whatever the date of expiry, there can be no doubt that it has now expired.”

Because of course, history would date things to events around two people who hurt his feelings.

But yes, science fiction is dead. It’s dead like Sir Gawain’s green knight – forever having it’s head chopped and promptly picking it up and walking away.

For some it is about marking territory

Good news from the people at Analog magazine – the Campbell Award for New Writers is going to be renamed the Astounding Award.

A swift (in the end) change and a clever new name that connects the future of the award with its past.

The story is well covered elsewhere, so I’m off to look at the inevitable grumbling. And where better to find said grumbling than Brad Torgersen. In the wake of Jeannette Ng’s speech at the Hugo Awards, Brad declared:

“I was one of the very last Campbell Award nominees who actually respected the Campbell legacy. I was proud to hold a Hard SF flame aloft, in the woke murk of the (then new) decade.”

Brad Torgersen, Facebook 23 August

For Brad this was a matter of ‘erasure’, which is weird the more I think about it. Campbell doesn’t cease to exist when his name isn’t attached to an award. The same rhetoric was used when the World Fantasy Award dropped the weird H.P.Lovecraft bust as its award trophy. We were told that Lovecraft was being erased. Several years later and there doesn’t seem to be any drop-off in discussion about H.P.Lovecraft. Far from being erased, work about or inspired by Lovecraft is as prevalent as ever — what had already changed was HOW people talked about and looked at his ‘legacy’.

John W Campbell isn’t being erased either. Frankly, if the only way you’d ever know that he ever existed was that an award had ‘Campbell’ attached to it then he would have already been erased. The award may as well have been named after a can of soup. Actual erasure is when people avoid the actual history of a person. A big part of this name change was the OPPOSITE of erasure and specifically Alec Nevala-Lee’s historical work Astounding that actually looked at Campbell’s legacy.

Brad has added a comment to his earlier post as a reaction to the news:

“This was inevitable. After they trashed the World Fantasy Award (hating on Lovecraft) it was only a matter of time before they came for Campbell. No old white dead men shall survive the Great Wokeness of these sorry, silly decades. Heinlein was right. It’s the Crazy Years.”

Now Brad says some silly things but even he isn’t so poor at structuring thought to really think that Campbell now just vanishes in a puff of wokeness. In fact, looking over Brad’s own posts about Campbell it’s also clear that all he presents about Campbell is a very vague idea. It’s about ‘legacy’ and traditions and hand-waving around something. It’s very much not about the man himself. Campbell simply is a marker.

For Brad having Campbell’s name on an award was no more and no less than a territorial mark. The removal of the mark is an affront because it is a loss of territory. The only question is who does he think this imaginary territory belongs to?

Some definitions of fascism

As the question of whether some historical figures were or were not fascists is in debate here is a variety of definitions. They vary primarily in the extent to which they aim to described specific similarities with Italian fascism of the 1930s or wider movements of a similar character. For reference and use later.

fascism noun mass noun
1 An authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization.
View synonyms: authoritarianism, totalitarianism, dictatorship, despotism, autocracy, absolute rule, Nazism, rightism, militarism
1.1(in general use) extreme authoritarian, oppressive, or intolerant views or practices.

fascism noun
fas·​cism | \ ˈfa-ˌshi-zəm also ˈfa-ˌsi-\ Definition of fascism
1 often capitalized : a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition
2 : a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control early instances of army fascism and brutality— J. W. Aldridge

Fascism (/ˈfæʃɪzəm/) is a form of far right-wing, authoritarian ultranationalism[1][2] characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition, and strong regimentation of society and of the economy[3] which came to prominence in early 20th-century Europe.[4] The first fascist movements emerged in Italy during World War I, before spreading to other European countries.[4] Opposed to liberalism, Marxism, and anarchism, fascism is placed on the far-right within the traditional left–right spectrum.[4][5]

Fascists believe that liberal democracy is obsolete and regard the complete mobilization of society under a totalitarian one-party state as necessary to prepare a nation for armed conflict and to respond effectively to economic difficulties.[8] Such a state is led by a strong leader—such as a dictator and a martial government composed of the members of the governing fascist party—to forge national unity and maintain a stable and orderly society.[8] Fascism rejects assertions that violence is automatically negative in nature and views political violence, war and imperialism as means that can achieve national rejuvenation.[9][10] Fascists advocate a mixed economy, with the principal goal of achieving autarky (national economic self-sufficiency) through protectionist and interventionist economic policies.[11]

fascism noun [ U ] politics (also Fascism) uk ​ /ˈfæʃ.ɪ.zəm/ us ​ /ˈfæʃ.ɪ.zəm/
​a political system based on a very powerful leader, state control, and being extremely proud of country and race, and in which political opposition is not allowed

Political scientists have agonised over whether there could be a “fascist minimum”. This would be some set of features that define a political agent, regime or movement as fascist. One feature of fascism, as opposed to the other great modern “isms”, as author Anthony Paxton contends with others, is its ideological fluidity or hybridity. Yet certain things should be ventured, lest this “F-word” degenerates into nothing more than an angry label that every party uses to name their enemies, of whatever political stripe.
Fascisms are political movements that aim to take over the state, destroying liberal institutions like an independent media, and individual rights. But not all movements that aim to do this are fascist. Fascists feel licensed to use fraud (“fake news”, propaganda) and, if need be, force in order to achieve this revolutionary aim. Yet again, not all movements that aim to do this are fascist.
To fascists, all life is kampf
One step further, fascists embrace the view that all life is struggle (kampf) or war: between the strong and the weak, within nations, and between the nations, races or peoples. Politics is a continuation of war by other means. Ideals like equality, tolerance, progress, and pity are the ideological rationalisations of weakness. Many fascists, including leading Nazis, are thus deeply opposed to the values enshrined by the biblical prophets and Christianity, seeing in them (following Nietzsche) the product of a regrettable “slave revolt” against the masters in antiquity. For the fascist, we should embrace hierarchies within nations, based on strength and “selections”, to use a chilling National Socialist word. We should accept differences between peoples — so long as groups, “in essence” different, are kept separated by fences and borders. Many forms of fascism thus base their ideologies on pseudo-biological doctrines concerning race, like the Nazis. But not all fascists are biological essentialists. The cultural specificity and history of a group, nation, or “People” (Volk) might be what is being idealised and fought for.

Political ideology that imposes strict social and economical measures as a method of empowering the government and stripping citizens of rights. This authoritative system of government is usually headed by an absolute dictator who keeps citizens suppressed via acts of violence and strict laws that govern the people. The most noted form of Fascism was implemented under Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, who both stripped citizens of their rights and maintained strict regimes that resulted in the deaths of thousands of humans. Some of the defining characteristics of fascism are: (1) racism, (2) militarism, (3) dictatorship, and (4) destructive nationalistic policies.

Fascism, Paxton says, is a dynamic process, rather than a fixed ideology like socialism or communism. There are five steps on Paxton’s road to hell, and not all fascist parties made it past the second step:

  • Ideological formation and the creation of a party with quasi-military cadres. Talk of national humiliation, lost vigor, and the failures of liberalism and democracy.
  • Entry of the party into national politics. Intimidation of rivals, and planned acts of “redemptive violence” against suspect minorities and radical rivals.
  • Arrival in government, often in alliance with conservatives.
  • Exercise of power, in concert with institutions and business. The regime expands its control at home: restricting the press and democratic processes, corporatizing business, and collectivizing the people. Abroad, it asserts itself militarily.
  • Radicalization or entropy: Some fascists go down in a Götterdämmerung, but most die of boredom.

Elements of Paxton’s early stages appear in the angry populism that is gaining ground in modern Western democracies, especially in hostility toward Muslim immigrants and the austerity measures of the post-2008 eurozone. There are politicians whose parties are of fascist extraction, like the National Front in France, whose Catholic-tinged identity politics can be traced back to proto-fascists like the early 20th century Action Francaise. Some of these politicians and parties, like Norbert Hofer’s Freedom Party in Austria, remain closer to their roots than others, and might merit the name neofascist. Others are doing their best to shed the worst of these associations as they enter mainstream politics; the National Front’s Marine Le Pen, for example, is no longer on speaking terms with her father Jean-Marie, the National Front’s founding ideologue. But only one Western democracy, Greece, has a fascist party like Golden Dawn, which possesses both uniformed street fighters and members of the national parliament. When Europe’s “New Right” leaders are called fascists in suits, it’s an acknowledgment that they are not fully fascist. Real fascists wore uniforms.

Fascism From Latin: fasces, the bundle of rodswith a projecting axe-head, carried before the consuls as a sign of the state authority of Rome, and adopted as a symbol of social unity (the bundle)under political leadership (the axe).The name was given by Mussolini tothe movement which he led to powerin Italy in 1922, but is now used more widely, to include German *Nazism, and Spanish *falangism, on the basis more of a common *ethos than a common *doctrine. Fascism is characterized by the following features (not all of which need be present in any of its recognized instances): *corporatism; *nationalism; hostility to *democracy, to *egalitarianism, and tot he values of liberal *enlightenment; the cult of the *leader, and admiration for his special qualities; a respect for collective organization, and a love of the symbols associated with it, such as uniforms, parades and army discipline.In Germany the cult of *violence, together with a violent *anti-semitism, were added to these features, with notorious results. The anti-communist and anti-liberal stance of fascis tmovements, together with the loathsomeness of many actual examples, have made the fight against fascism a rallying point for left and liberal causes, so that the label ‘fascist’ may often be applied very loosely, to denote almost any doctrine that conflicts with left-liberal ideology. In this expletive use the term conveys no very clear idea, a fact which perhaps explains its popularity. From the intellectual point of view fascism remains an amalgam of disparate conceptions, often ill-under-stood, often bizarre. It is more notable as a political phenomenon on which diverse intellectual influences converge than as a distinct idea; as apolitical phenomenon, one of its most remarkable features has been the ability to win massive popular support for ideas that are expressly anti-egalitarian(seeReich). Mussolini’s own ideas were derived from a heady mixture of popular science, *Marx, *Sorel and*Nietzsche. He advocated regeneration through conquest and perpetual struggle, and spoke, in speeches seething with sexual imagery, of the need to overcome degeneracy and impotence, to make sacrifices for the nation, and to connect to the great ‘dynamo’ of fascism. Fascists are ‘not republicans, socialists, democrats, conservatives or nationalists. They represent a synthesis of all the negations and the affirmations.’ In other words, the ultimate doctrine contains little that is specific, beyond an appeal to energy and action: it is, one might say, the form of an *ideology, but without specific content (other than can be provided by admiration towards the leader).This perhaps explains some of its appeal; it seemed to make no demand other than those which the individual himself would make had he the energy. It then provided the energy.

The Palgrave MacmillanDictionary of PoliticalThought 3rd edition by Roger Scruton

Ur fascism

  • The cult of tradition. “One has only to look at the syllabus of every fascist movement to find the major traditionalist thinkers. The Nazi gnosis was nourished by traditionalist, syncretistic, occult elements.”
  • The rejection of modernism. “The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modern depravity. In this sense Ur-Fascism can be defined as irrationalism.”
  • The cult of action for action’s sake. “Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, any previous reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation.”
  • Disagreement is treason. “The critical spirit makes distinctions, and to distinguish is a sign of modernism. In modern culture the scientific community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge.”
  • Fear of difference. “The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders. Thus Ur-Fascism is racist by definition.”
  • Appeal to social frustration. “One of the most typical features of the historical fascism was the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups.”
  • The obsession with a plot. “The followers must feel besieged. The easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia.”
  • The enemy is both strong and weak. “By a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak.”
  • Pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. “For Ur-Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle.”
  • Contempt for the weak. “Elitism is a typical aspect of any reactionary ideology.”
  • Everybody is educated to become a hero. “In Ur-Fascist ideology, heroism is the norm. This cult of heroism is strictly linked with the cult of death.”
  • Machismo and weaponry. “Machismo implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality.”
  • Selective populism. “There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People.”
  • Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak. “All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning.”

Umberto Eco

“Fascism is a political ideology whose mythic core in its various permutations is a palingenetic form of populist ultra-nationalism.”
The palingenetic core of generic fascist ideology

Fascism is a set of ideologies and practices that seeks to place the nation, defined in exclusive biological, cultural, and/or historical terms, above all other sources of loyalty, and to create a mobilized national community. Fascist nationalism is reactionary in that it entails implacable hostility to socialism and feminism, for they are seen as prioritizing class or gender rather than nation. This is why fascism is a movement of the extreme right. Fascism is also a movement of the radical right because the defeat of socialism and feminism and the creation of the mobilized nation are held to depend upon the advent to power of a new elite acting in the name of the people, headed by a charismatic leader, and embodied in a mass, militarized party. Fascists are pushed towards conservatism by common hatred of socialism and feminism, but are prepared to override conservative interests – family, property, religion, the universities, the civil service – where the interests of the nation are considered to require it. Fascist radicalism also derives from a desire to assuage discontent by accepting specific demands of the labour and women’s movements, so long as these demands accord with the national priority. Fascists seek to ensure the harmonization of workers’ and women’s interests with those of the nation by mobilizing them within special sections of the party and/or within a corporate system. Access to these organizations and to the benefits they confer upon members depends on the individual’s national, political, and/or racial characteristics. All aspects of fascist policy are suffused with ultranationalism.

Passmore, Kevin,Fascism: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2002)

Day confirms the Castalia retreat

I suggested a few days ago that it looked like the far-right publishing house Castalia had stopped publishing new science fiction. There was not an immediate reaction from Vox Day, the white nationalist behind the publisher. However on his blog [archive link] today he more-or-less confirms what was apparent:

“In light of the changes in the ebook market and our retreat from the Kindle Unlimited space, we’ve been making some strategic changes at Arkhaven and Castalia House. Now that we’ve successfully entered the video space, we’re concentrating our efforts on our strongest fiction and non-fiction properties, primarily because we don’t have the bandwidth to devote to everything.

This is why we’ve returned the publishing rights to their books to a number of our authors, although we continue to support them and their self-publishing efforts, and why we have methodically reduced the number of books that we are publishing. Our sales remain strong, which tends to indicate that our revised approach is a viable one.”

So what does Day mean be ‘our strongest fiction and non-fiction properties’. There are some clues.

  • We know John C Wright has at least partially been dropped or moved on.
  • We know that the core of this announcement was shifting what comic would be provided to people who had pledged to a crowd funding campaign. Day is shifting from a story by Rolf Nelson to an adaptation of one of his own books.
  • In a comment Day says: “And given some of the lessons we’ve learned, we are no longer going to push IP that we do not control into other media.” What IP does Day control? What he writes himself.

The problem with being a publishing house is you have to deal with two groups of people best avoided in business: writers and readers. Castalia’s business model also includes a third: Amazon. It sounds like Day has problems with all three. As part of the same comment I quoted above he says:

“Publishers are in a trap of sorts. If a book doesn’t sell well, the author thinks he should have self-published. If the book sells really well, the author thinks he should have self-published.”

Castalia was offering very little: minimal editing, very variable cover design and a brand name that was appealing only to a very narrow and ideologically defined base. Since 2014, the technological knowledge needed to self-publish on Amazon has become more broadly understood by authors in general. It’s still weird but there is plenty of free advice available and also mini-publishing outfits willing to provide the relevant services for better return than Castalia and without the associated stigma.

Hugosauriad 4.7: Extinction event 3 – Vox Day, Alien Strippers and Voting Reform

Of all the stories I’ve covered in this series, this chapter has the most inconsequential. A story of little merit and no lasting impact, it exists simply to mark an end-point. It’s presence on the Hugo ballot was as a doomed attempt to repeat a prank that had already badly backfired on its perpetrator.

When last we met Vox Day and the Rabid Puppies in 2016 they were being mocked as losers by a performance artist/erotic novelist famed for unfeasible book titles. We will never know whether Vox had sufficiently mindless followers that they were wasting their own money on Worldcon memberships or whether many of the Rabid Puppy votes were fake accounts. Whether sock-puppets or meat-puppets, the exercise in ballot vandalism was not cheap.

Beyond the confines of fandom though, Vox Day could enjoy the electoral victory of Donald Trump. The so-called “alt-right” was in ascendence and Vox’s brand of extreme nationalism was drawing interest by news media.

Meanwhile the Hugo Awards had changed. The Sad/Rabid Puppy success at storming the ballot in 2015 had led to voting reforms designed to limit the impact of slate voting. One was a very simple change: in the first stage nomination vote, members would continue to nominate five works per category but the set of finalists would be six works. This change would ensure that a simple slate of five works would still leave one work as a finalist which would hopefully give voters at least one non-slated work to vote for.

The other reform was a new voting method called EPH. This system involved ordering nominees by number of votes but then eliminating lower scoring nominees in pairs by comparing the number of points each nominee had. The points were based on similarities between ballots in a way that would also reduce the impact of slates without having anybody ever have to decide whether something was a slate or not.

Day reduced the number of works on the Rabid Puppy slate hoping that would result in a greater impact. Indeed, in principle EPH would even give his nominees an advantage as they would unlikely to have much in common with other voter’s set of nomination. In at least one case (Fanwriter) the Rabid Puppy nominee became a finalist on points rather than raw votes, ironically beating a blogger who had been a very vocal advocate for the wonders of EPH (and who has a passing resemblance to the person writing this).

In the Best Novelette Category there were six finalists, five of which were non-Rabid nominees. The sixth was Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex, by Stix Hiscock. It doesn’t really need explaining that this was an attempt to try to make the same joke again after the previous attempt had headed off in to its own tingelverse.

Stix Hiscock was a pseudonym of course but at least one media outlet managed to interview her:

“”Alien Stripper was written as a lark,” Hiscock said. “I actually think it’s quite good, and published it not expecting anything to come of it. I just wanted to add shock and a little comedy to people’s day. Plus, making the cover was incredibly rewarding.”

The cover of the book does not quite match the contents. The stripper in the story is a green alien woman with three breasts who crash landed on Earth. She has taken up stripping to earn money to repair her space ship. The stripper partly shown on the cover isn’t green and appears to have only two breasts. Five minutes in photoshop with the hue-saturation settings and the clone tool and both those issues could have been rectified but perhaps I’m asking too much of disposable ebooks.

There are flashes of comedy in the story but you have to pick through the bits about laser nipples.

“The man turned to Tyrone, his hand still on me, smoldering. “Well now, I don’t think this is any of your goddamn business, now is it you fucking large theropod? Is it true you people only have a brain the size of a walnut? That’s what I fucking heard…” “You’re thinking of stegosauruses, buddy, and some of my best friends back in the day happened to be stegosauruses…” This he said through gritted teeth, and I tried to back away, knowing what was coming, seeing it in his eyes, but the man’s grip continued to tighten around me like a vice.

Hiscock, Stix. Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex . Stix Hiscock. Kindle Edition.

Or this moment later in the book where the two characters are sharing photos of their former loved ones:

“What happened to her?” I asked, walking on eggshells here, knowing it was likely a sensitive subject for him, yet I nonetheless felt as though I needed desperately to know. “A, um… A meteor got her… And my family… And friends… My neighbors… My church group… My dentist… My weed dealer… Pretty much everyone I knew, actually…” “Oh… God…” I said, feeling as though I’d just touched on a very bad subject that I shouldn’t have. “Yeah… It was a pretty shitty week,” said Tyrone, shrugging, and we continued in silence for a while. Eventually, just to put an end to the oppressive quietness and get his mind off of the mass extinction of everyone he knew and loved, I reached into my purse and pulled out a photograph of my own. “This is Charlie,” I said, and Tyrone lifted the picture to his eyes, studying it closely. Charlie was a tentacle monster, and pretty much just looked like a living bowl of spaghetti

Hiscock, Stix. Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex . Stix Hiscock. Kindle Edition.

And that’s about it for the story.

Porn and science fiction aren’t so very far apart. They both have sides with literary aspirations (in the case of porn, ‘erotica’) and both have histories in disposable literature. Science fiction writers such as Robert Silverberg have written softcore pornography to maintain an income. I don’t think Ray Bradbury ever wrote any porn as such but he was the subject of comedian Rachel Bloom’s sexually explicit song “Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury” – itself a Hugo Award finalist in 2011. Fans and fandom are not easily shocked or perhaps they are easily shocked but not simply by verbal descriptions of sex.

Of the 2,057 votes cast in the Novelette category only 45 went to Alien Stripper which was eliminated in the first round having been beaten by No Award by 31 votes. In the end the erotic tale of dino-romance would finish seventh out of six, which is an impressive result in some ways. Notably the story got fewer votes in the finalist ballot (45) than it did in the nomination stage (77). Members of the previous Worldcon have nomination rights in the Hugos for the next Worldcon. The drop in votes indicated that the number of Rabid Puppy members of Worldcon had declined even further in the previous months.

The Hugo Awards had met their end of an epoch extinction event and…had adapted and survived.

Next time: The rise of Uncanny and “The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat”

This is an interesting post about awards from Mad Genius Club

Not much commentary or analysis from me but I thought this post by Cedar Sanderson was interesting:

Minor quibble: in the section on the Dragon Awards I think she is getting 2017 confused with 2018 when she says “Last year they declaimed and protested any contact with the feelthy commoners” It makes no sense in terms of 2018 but could be a distorted account of 2017 when several authors asked to be withdrawn. In 2018 the Dragons shifted to a policy of notifying nominated authors in advance, giving them a chance to withdraw if they wished to.